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Jess Varnish unfair dismissal case against British Cycling could lead to funding cut for Olympic athletes

Former track cyclist's claim she was an employee could have profound impact on athletes' funding...

A court case being brought by former track cyclist Jess Varnish against British Cycling could affect the funding of hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Telegraph Sport reports that lawyers acting for the 28-year-old will seek to prove that she was an employee of the governing body rather than having the distinct status that athletes funded through UK Sport have.

Varnish was the first athlete to make allegations of bullying within the Great Britain Cycling Team that led to the departure of former technical director Shane Sutton and an overhaul of British Cycling’s governance and management.

In April 2016, shortly after she raised her concerns, her funding was withdrawn, ostensibly because her performance was not at the required level.

She is now suing the organisation for unfair dismissal, sexual discrimination, victimisation and detrimental treatment, according to the Telegraph.

If her claim is successful, the newspaper says that up to 200 of the 1,100 UK Sport-funded athletes could see a reduction in their grants.

A source told the Telegraph: “The case could have profound consequences, “though what happens will depend on the HMRC’s response; if Jess Varnish was to win, it could force UK Sport to completely restructure its funding model.”

Besides the funding body potentially having to pay National Insurance and pensions contributions for athletes, the outcome of the case could also see some making backdated claims against UK Sport.

Currently, the athlete performance awards of up to £28,000 made by the organisation are tax-exempt and do not give employment rights to the athletes who benefit from them.

Should Varnish succeed, they could have to pay 20 per cent tax, with a similar amount cut from overall funding.

The case, which is being heard in Manchester, is due to start on Monday 10 December.

Varnish was stripped of her funding when she was dropped from the national squad in April 2016 on the basis that her performance was not at the level expected. The 28-year-old claims she was unfairly discriminated against.

If Varnish succeeds next week, sources anticipated it could lead to athletes paying 20 per cent tax on some form of centralised contract, with the same amount lost for their funding.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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